Bad Faith (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
About 1962, when Carmen Callil was a young Australian woman living in Italy, she attempted suicide and was taken to London, where three days a week, for seven years, she spent an hour with a young half-Australian psychiatrist named Dr. Anne Darquier. However, when she arrived for her appointment on September 7, 1970, nobody answered the doorbell and Callil learned later in the day that Darquier was dead, probably by suicide. Callil was surprised to learn at the funeral that she was to be buried as Anne Darquier de Pellepoix, a name she was not to hear again until a year or so later when she watched Marcel Ophuls’s television documentary Le Chagrin et la pitié, or The Sorrow and the Pity: The Story of a French Town in the Occupation (1971). The town in the title was Cahors, in southwest France, home of the man who was born Louis Darquier but who added de Pellepoix to his name. Darquier appears in Ophuls’s film shaking hands with Reinhard Heydrich, the brutal head of the Reich Central Security office until he was killed by Czech assassins. It was the sudden reappearance of this name that impelled Callil to undertake the years of research that produced this brilliant book.
Louis Darquier was born on December 19, 1897, in the small town of Cahors in southwest France. His father, Pierre, was a respected physician, his mother, Louise, a “churchy woman” who entertained a lot. His older brother, René, became a prosperous businessman whom the irresponsible Louis turned to many times for money. Louis’s younger brother, Jean, followed Pierre’s career as a doctor, whereas Louis’s hopes in medicine ended when he failed a crucial chemistry exam. He enlisted early in World War I, in 1915, and served well despite infractions in his conduct. After the war, Louis entered the wheat trade, a business dominated by wealthy Jews, but his financial misdoing forced his resignation in 1926 and precipitated his anti-Semitism. Two malignant figures, Édouard Drumont, a rabidly anti-Semitic Catholic, and Charles Maurras, the intellectual godfather of the right-wing Action Française movement, further infected him with the anti-Semitism so endemic in the Catholic Church of the time. Much of the activity generated by these fascist bigots was financed by perfume magnate François Coty, l’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller, and brandy king Jean Hennessy.
The woman who was to pass as Madame Myrtle Darquier was born Myrtle Marian Ambrosine Jones in Carrick, Tasmania, in 1893. Pursuing a mediocre career as an actress and singer, Myrtle probably met Louis in France where her first husband was performing for the troops in World War I. In 1928, these two liars and frauds married and after a quick visit to Tasmania presented themselves to London’s Mayfair society as Baron and Baroness Louis Darquier de Pellepoix. By 1930, though, they were destitute and forced to give up their new baby, Anne, to Elsie Lightfoot of Oxfordshire, the nanny they had hired. They soon returned to Paris, wheedled money from René over the years, and endured Louise Darquier’s contempt for Myrtle.
Economic conditions in France, complicated by an influx of postwar immigrants, spawned the riots of February 6, 1934, which protested Premier Édouard Daladier’s government. Seventeen people died, and among the fifteen hundred injured was Louis Darquier, shot in the thighbone. Capitalizing on his role in these events, in July, 1934, Louis started the first of his many organizations, the Association des Blessés et Victimes du 6 Février, and took a job as deputy editor of a right-wing newspaper, Le Jour. A year later he was gone from Le Jour, probably for stealing funds, but in May, 1935, he was elected to the Paris city council. After the Socialist leader Léon Blum was beaten up in February, 1936, Blum’s adherents sacked the Action Française office in rue Asseline, and Louis was later to date his anti-Semitic career to that affair.
It was probably the “professional anti-Semite” Henry Coston who introduced Louis to the anti-Semitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1903?), and in 1936 he publicly attacked Coston’s Popular Front enemies. It was in this period, Callil explains, that Louis began to reject “Catholic and nationalist anti-Semitism in favour of the French version of the Nazi racist variety.” In May, 1936,...
(The entire section is 1788 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Booklist 102, no. 22 (August 1, 2006): 30.
Library Journal 131, no. 15 (September 15, 2006): 71.
London Review of Books 28, no. 11 (June 8, 2006): 27-28.
New Statesman 135 (October 10, 2006): 51-52.
The New York Times 156 (October 12, 2006): E9.
The New York Times Book Review 155 (September 17, 2006): 22.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 27 (July 10, 2006): 67.
The Spectator 300, no. 9271 (April 15, 2006): 43-44.